Nigeria (MNN) — Nigerian officials are rejecting religious freedom criticism from the U.S. State Department, calling it “misleading.” On Friday, the U.S. warned of negative action if Nigeria didn’t improve its religious freedom record.
More than 1,000 Christians were killed by Islamic terrorists this year, according to a UK non-government organization. Sharia law threatens believers, too. Voice of the Martyrs USA spokesman Todd Nettleton says Islamic law governs 12 states in northern Nigeria.
“A massacre of Christians”
Author Bernard-Henri Lévy begins his recent opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal with the following:
“A slow-motion war is underway in Africa’s most populous country. It’s a massacre of Christians, massive in scale and horrific in brutality. And the world has hardly noticed.”
Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen consistently threaten Christian communities. Read our coverage here. As if that threat weren’t enough, the USCRIF issued a warning earlier this month about the negative effects of Islamic laws on Nigeria’s religious minorities.
“When these laws were put into effect they (officials) said, ‘This won’t affect Christians, it’ll just apply to Muslims’,” Nettleton explains.
“What we have seen in the year since they put these laws into effect is that they are used against Christians. They are used to punish and to persecute.”
Although Nigerian believers are standing firm in their faith, they could use your help.
3 ways to help persecuted believers
Ask the Lord to strengthen and encourage persecuted Christians in Nigeria.
“It would be easy living as a Christian in northern Nigeria to become discouraged. You see the attacks; you see people being killed; you know that the laws of the states are against you,” Nettleton says.
“We pray that they will be encouraged and that they’ll continue to be bold witnesses for Christ.”
You can also help believers in tangible ways. By sponsoring a Family Med Pack, you can send care items to Christian victims. Learn more and donate here. You can also send a personal note of encouragement.
“Many Nigerians speak English… and our staff there is able to take these letters and place them into the hands of Christians,” Nettleton says.
Header image courtesy of Open Doors USA.